Ladder safety for owner builders

Ladder safety for owner builders is an obvious WHS issue and can minimise serious injury on your site. Less than a two metre fall can be dangerous and many serious accidents from ladders are from short falls. As ladder jobs are frequent in this game, here are a number of great tips to keep safe while getting up high.

1. Always work within arm's reach of the task
2. Always stop before the second last step of the ladder
3. Place the ladder on firm dry ground or use leveling/stabilising devices. 

Don't do this


1. Don't walk the ladder, climb down and reposition
2. Don't use a ladder in wind and or rain
3. Don't use a ladder whilst using medication that effects balance
4. Don't allow a second person on the ladder at the same time

Stabilising devices
A constant hazard of ladder use is the feet of aluminum extension ladders slipping backward away from the wall or sinking into the earth. There are a number of 'ladder stabilizers' available that spread the weight of the ladder feet and anchor them to prevent movement.

Levelling devices
Is there ever a level surface for a ladder? Mostly the surface will be sloped, both left to right and forward to rear.

Using a 'leveliser'- a purpose made triangular device, eliminates the need for finding the right width piece of offcut to raise the lower foot of your ladder. A modern aluminium ladder, sometimes called a safety ladder, may have slide out extensions that can be fixed to the lower level side. Other products are stand alone attachments: see pic provided.

Standoff devices
Tasks such as painting walls, working on gutter systems, soffits, high windows etc, require a 'stand off' device so the top of the ladder doesn't sit against the wall, gutter or window. Special roof ladders or scaffold ladders have securing devices and extra bars at the top to provide safe egress and entry to the ladder at height.

Ladder levelling devices

Fall arresting systems
If you choose not to use a scaffold, ladder work for second storey tasks can be rather dangerous. Fall protection systems such as ladder securing safety belts, lanyards and harnesses are available to maintain safety at height.

Ladder feet

Job safety analysis
If a worker you are responsible for injures themselves on your worksite, and makes a claim for workers compensation, the insurance company will need to investigate all of your safety devices, written procedures, signage and hopefully your job safety analysis of the task that led to the injury. This will limit the premium rise the insurance company will enforce if the claim is approved.

JSA Steps
1. Document the activity: write down the tasks that make up the activity, step by step.

2. Identify the hazards: identify what part of the task may cause injury to those doing the work or to anyone else nearby.

3. Document the control measures: for each identified hazard, list the measures that need to be put in place to eliminate or minimise any likely risk of injury to those involved.

4. Identify who is responsible: document the name of the person responsible for implementing the control measure.

5. Monitor and review: make sure the activity is supervised to ensure the documented process is being followed.

I have touched on the basics here, but for more in depth ladder safety information and resources, download the excellent and 'free' Ladder Safety Training resource on the website.  

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